Rita Moreno Walks Back Comments Defending ‘In The Heights’ During Afro-Latino Erasure Controversy
Update June 17, 2021
Rita Moreno is walking back her comments defending “In the Heights” after facing controversy.
Moreno defending Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film “In the Heights” after criticism about the erasure of Afro-Latino people. The main critique is that the film centers around Washington Heights yet the cast does not represent the full spectrum of people who call Washington Heights home.
“In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In The Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward,” Moren said in a subsequent tweet. “See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks – RITA”
Moreno’s apology is after an appearance on the Colbert Show.
“It’s like you can never do right it seems,” Moreno said. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I mean, I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that, really single-handedly, and I’m thrilled to pieces, and I’m proud that he produced my documentary.”
She added: “I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone? There’s a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights is one of the biggest movies to hit the screen this year and it was also one of the most hyped. However, since it’s release last week the musical-turned-movie has been criticized for downplaying the Afro-Latino presence in the real Washington Heights and it has failed to hit all the right notes at the box office.
Miranda’s In The Heights was widely promoted as a long-overdue correction to the issue of underrepresentation of Latinos in Hollywood. But since the film’s release, the online chatter has largely trended towards its failure to accurately represent the community’s Afro-Latino residents. Despite all of this there is already talk for a potential sequel and the film’s superfans couldn’t be more happy.
In The Heights is making all sorts of headlines since its release last week.
In The Heights didn’t quite make the box office splash that many had expected, having just generated $11.4 million from 3,456 U.S. theaters in its first four days of release, below earlier expectations suggesting the feel-good film would reach $20 million.
The film’s disappointing performance is puzzling given the hype behind the film. Not only did it receive excellent reviews from critics, but director Jon M. Chu and Lin Manuel Miranda devoted a great deal of energy into promoting the movie, which compensated for the fact that its cast was comprised of mostly unknown stars and emerging actors.
And now the film is being racked by accusations of colorism. Over the weekend, a segment from The Root went viral in which host and producer Felice León confronted director Jon M. Chu and actors Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Gregory Diaz IV over the film’s casting choices: “What would you say to folks who say that In the Heights privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?”
Miranda has spoken out and assured fans that he ‘is listening.’
On Monday afternoon, Miranda responded to the criticism. “I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy,” he wrote in a message posted to Twitter. “I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.”
So, could there be an In The Heights sequel?
As of now, there are no plans for a follow-up film, but according to star Leslie Grace, the cast has already started a petition for it. “There is nothing that we would want more in the world,” Melissa Barrera told Entertainment Tonight. “Even if it takes Lin another 20 years to write the sequel, we will all come back . . . If one day you wake up and they’re like, ‘I dreamed up the sequel,’ and Lin is inspired and writes the songs, I mean, we’re there.” Grace jokingly added, “We’ll be back as Abuela Nina and Abuela Vanessa.”
Meanwhile, director Jon M. Chu is also down for a sequel. “If Lin and Quiara [Alegría Hudes] wrote the next chapter, you bet your ass I’d be there!” he told ET. “I think the next chapter is that next generation, seeing how Sonny helps guide them into the new chapter of their lives and how they’re telling their stories. That would be fun!”
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